Sri Lanka: Put UNHRC inside the war zone


The UN/UNHCR and all of its Rapporteurs & Officials love to quote from the international textbooks on how wars should be waged, the rights of the civilians, the rules of war, international humanitarian laws, human rights laws and what not. But they are quoting all of these seated in air conditioned rooms in Geneva, New York and clueless about what it is really like to be inside a war zone. Therefore, let us put UNHRC officials into numerous scenarios of terror that Sri Lanka faced & question what UNHRC would have done in those instances.


30 November 1984 – LTTE attacks Kent & Dollar Farms in Mullaitivu district

62 Sinhalese killed including pregnant women & children

If UNHRC officials were inside Kent & Dollar Farms what would they have done to stop LTTE killing unarmed civilians – premeditated murder & would LTTE have listened & what would the fate of UNHRC officials be too


Late 1980s LTTE committed ethnic cleansing of Sinhalese & Muslims from North Sri Lanka giving them 48hours to evict their homes with only what they wore & what they could carry

If UNHRC officials were with these Sinhalese & Muslims while being ethnically cleansed what would they do to stop the eviction? Has the UNHRC even helped a single of these evicted people return to their original habitats?

UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1994 declared perpetrators of ethnic cleansing as war criminals.


LTTE recruitment of children as child soldiers – LTTE violated fundamental rights of a child to education/violated Article 26 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights / Geneva Convention IV Article 50/ Additional Protocol I of 1977 Article 77(2) / Additional Protocol II of 1977 Article 4(3)(c) / Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 Article 38(3) /

If UNHRC officials were inside a school stormed by LTTE picking children to kidnap & take with them and witnessed principal and teachers who opposed shot dead, what would UNHRC do?


Suicide terrorism – using cyanide capsule

In the 1980s children & women were directly trained by Adele Balasingham as trained combatants & ordered to commit suicide by using cyanide capsule. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of HRW says ‘the people who carry out suicide bombings are not martyrs, they’re war criminals, and so are the people who help to plan such attacks.” * [Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Article 28(b), U.N.Doc. no. A/CONF. 183/9 (17 July, 1998), 37 I.L.M. 999]. Suicide terrorism has no legitimacy – there is no ‘just cause’ in homicide. Suicide attacks fall into category of murder with mens rea – willingness to kill and willingness to die.

If UNHRC officials were inside these training camps where they witnessed children being trained to kill and trained to commit suicide what would UNHRC do to save these children? Would reading out the international laws stop LTTE from recruiting children, training them as child soldiers and teaching them to commit suicide?


LTTE having chased out Sinhalese & Muslims from their original habitats and taken over their lands & property in 1980s these have yet to be returned

If UNHRC is well aware of this – what have they done about it?


  • LTTE storm villages, cuts people & children to pieces
  • If UNHRC officials had been inside these villages witnessing LTTE chop people ransack their peaceful homes, destroy their livelihoods, cause fear & harm, what would these officials do as Additional Protocols of Geneva Conventions prohibit acts aimed at spreading terror among civilian populations?


LTTE carried out over 300 suicide attacks over 30 years virtually every day

What if UNHRC was a witness to every LTTE suicide attack and bomb placed inside buses, trains, office buildings, roadside targeting passenger buses and these were all violations of Article 3 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights denying people right to life, liberty & security – what would UNHRC officials do?


Tamilini the female political head of LTTE in her book before her death writes that rampant rape of Tamil combatants inside bunkers took place

What if UNHRC officials were aware of these rapes by male LTTE combatant leaders upon junior Tamil combatant females – what would UNHRC do to stop the rape?


15 June 2006 LTTE targets passenger bus in Kebethigollawa killing 60 including children

What if UNHRC officials were also travelling in this same bus that succumbed to a claymore mine attack during a ceasefire leading to 60 civilian deaths. What would UNHRC do against the LTTE?


21 July 2006 LTTE closes Mavil Aru sluice gates denying water to some 30,000 farmers

Denying water is a war crime

If UNHRC officials were among these families who were denied water as a result of LTTE closing the sluice gates, what would UNHRC do?

Read out the international laws and expect LTTE to open the sluice gates? Call them over for ‘peace talks’ (oh by the way the LTTE did this during the peace talks/ceasefire)! Will UNHRC threaten to sanction LTTE – that might be a little too risky given that UNHRC is without water!

LTTE took civilians with them as they retreated against military operations

Article 5 of IHL says civilian population & individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations.

What if UNHRC officials were among these civilians taken by force by LTTE. What would UNHRC officials do – read out Article 5 of IHL and expect LTTE to free all civilians? Fat chance!


  • LTTE denied food & water to Tamil civilians who were not from LTTE families
  • What if UNHRC were among the civilians taken by LTTE & saw LTTE purposely inflate food requirements as more than required amounts would be useful if the conflict gets protracted but none of the food & medicines sent were given to non-LTTE Tamil families. What would UNHRC do, complain to LTTE & read out the law books?


LTTE fired at Sri Lankan Military from among civilians

Article 23 (Third Geneva Convention) specifically states that a prisoner of war is not to be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operation”. (Geneva Convention III)

Article 28 declares illegal the practice of employing human shields under IHL Fourth Geneva Convention the presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operation”.

Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Convention – Article 51(7) says the presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations”. This clearly applies to passive and active human shields whether they are voluntary human shields or not.

What would UNHRC officials do if LTTE were firing from where civilians were held as prisoners & not allowed to escape. Will LTTE release UNHRC officials and the rest of the civilians if Article 23 of Geneva Convention 3 & Article 28 of Geneva Convention 4 or Article 51 (7) is read out?


LTTE violation of Sri Lanka declared No Fire Zone (Civilian Safety Zone)

A no fire zone becomes official only if both parties are signatory to it. In this case the NFZ was only created by the GOSL on 2 occasions (21 January 2009 & 12 February 2009) using loudspeakers & leaflets in Tamil directing civilians where to escape to & enable security forces to evacuate them to safety. LTTE entered this zone with civilians to make LTTE immune from attack using civilians as scapegoat. LTTE used civilians as human shields while shooting them to prevent them escaping. LTTE shot at the Sri Lankan Armed Forces keeping civilians around them. Returning fire is perfectly legitimate because the ground rule is LTTE cannot shoot from within civilians. Anna Niesat of Human Rights Watch

What if UNHRC officials were also herded by LTTE along with the other civilians & realized that any attempt to escape would end up being shot at while also witnessing LTTE with their armoury firing at Sri Lankan Forces – what would UNHRC do? Certainly not much …


LTTE blurring distinction between combatant & civilian

LTTE combatants fought in uniform & civilian clothing.

LTTE had a trained, armed civilian force

Though LTTE does not have legal status under IHL LTTE is legally obliged to respect IHL

What if UNHRC officials watched LTTE fight in uniform & civilian clothing and instructed its civilian force to shoot soldiers would UNHRC still hand over the international law books to the Sri Lankan soldier & tell them that they cannot shoot at ‘civilians’ knowing LTTE were shooting at the soldiers in civilian clothing and civilians were part of LTTE armed group? To whom should UNHRC give the international law book?


LTTE used hospitals to fire from and look after their injured combatants

What if UNHRC officials part of the civilians taken by LTTE were operating from hospitals and firing from inside hospitals while using the doctors & medicines to care for only LTTE combatants and their families. What would UNHRC officials do – remind the LTTE what its duties are & that hospitals cannot be used to fire from … and what would be the fate of these UNHRC officials?


On 9 July 2009 US Ambassador to Geneva Clint Williamson met Jacque de Maio ICRC head of Operations for South Asia & sent a cable to US on 15 July 2009.

The cable disclosed what De Maio had told the US envoy

  • the army did not deliberately shell civilians
  • the army delayed the inevitable victory taking to consideration the civilian factor
  • LTTE purposely kept civilians & LTTE continued to be among civilians (proof seen when LTTE suicide bomber dressed as civilian blew herself up at a makeshift refugee reception centre killing military personnel & Tamil civilians)
  • LTTE kept civilians as a ‘protective asset’
  • LTTE’s objective was to keep the distinction between civilian & LTTE military assets blurred
  • Army could have won the military battle faster with higher civilian casualties, yet chose a slower approach which led to a greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths.


UNHRC officials were well aware of the fact that LTTE kept civilians to blur distinction and LTTE must shoulder all blame for putting civilians in harm’s way as well as using civilians in combat.

If UNHRC officials were in the thick of this civilian populace could UNHRC have stopped the use of civilians by LTTE by reading out the law books to LTTE?

LTTE killed its own injured combatants – nothing to be surprised when LTTE shot at the people who they were keeping as hostages & human shields

What if UNHRC witnessed LTTE injured cadres being put into buses & blown up to prevent them from being captured and divulging information on LTTE. What would UNHRC do in such an instance?


Allegations of 40,000 or more dead

Imagine UNHRC officials inside the conflict zone now confined to a small strip of land near the Nandikadal lagoon with ICRC closing its operations on 15 May 2009 satisfied that civilians have moved to safety & only the LTTE and Sri Lankan Forces are engaged in the final battle.

Can UNHRC officials explain how the hell Sri Lankan forces can while fighting the LTTE in this small strip of land have time to dig graves to put 40,000 to 175,000 dead bodies?


These are just a handful of instances that demands UNHRC to remove itself from its high & mighty position of know-it-all & UNHRC must be asked to be physically present in a war zone to fathom what must be going on in the mind of an ordinary soldier knowing what his orders are, knowing the restrictions that he is bound by vis a vis international laws but also knowing that the enemy does not care a fig about any of these laws.


Doesn’t the life of a soldier matter?


Does the UNHRC want the soldiers to be live bait for the LTTE?


UNHRC can never forget two important factors

  1. LTTE fought in both uniform & civilian clothing
  2. LTTE has a trained armed civilian force

Both these factors completely blurs the distinction for any soldier.


Can UNHRC officials inside a war zone be able to identify a LTTE cadre in civilian clothing from a civilian?

Can UNHRC officials inside a war zone identify a civilian from a LTTE combatant in civilian clothing?


UNHRC can sit in Geneva and pull out every international Convention and quote pages from it after a conflict has ended & like a matron preach about how a war should be fought – if so then UNHRC should take the soldiers place and see if all the laws that the UNHRC are today throwing at Sri Lanka’s Army can be followed by UNHRC in uniform and inside the war zone? This is a challenge all other countries facing conflicts and being preached by UN/UNHRC should also demand.




Shenali D Waduge



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